I have blogged before about the Connecticut legislature’s secretly-developed law that was passed, which mandates that the public never see crime scene photos of Sandy Hook. This is an unprecedented restriction as you can confirm by using google image search and putting in “harris” and “clebold” in the search box.
The law was one of several bills to neuter Freedom-of-Information-Act requests. It was the only one that passed. Other attempts to restrict the public’s access failed to get the votes needed:
“But after the House and Senate voted to approve the bill between 1 and 2 a.m. Wednesday, and the governor signed it into law 12 hours later, it stopped short of an initial proposal to protect Newtown victims’ families by banning the audiotapes of 911 emergency calls — not just from the Newtown shootings, but in police cases everywhere. Those tapes are routinely released all over the country and are used by citizens and news organizations to evaluate police response to emergencies.”
So the audio of the 911 tapes can be released now, right?
“State prosecutors seeking to block the release of 911 calls made during the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School say a preliminary order to disclose the calls could put police ‘at the mercy’ of criminals eager to determine what evidence investigators had collected. Prosecutors will make their case Sept. 25, when the state Freedom of Information Commission considers a proposed order that tapes of the calls be made public. The Associated Press asked Newtown police for copies of the 911 tapes on Dec. 14, the same day Adam Lanza shot his way into the school and killed 20 children and six women.”
The prosecutor is trying out two arguments in the hopes that one will stick. One strategy is claiming that Adam Lanza’s shooting constitutes an act of mass child abuse. Because the state allows child abuse crimes to be kept secret, it is therefore argued that the government does not have to honor the FOIA requests.
Then there is the second strategy:
“Prosecutors also will argue that the tapes are protected by an exemption designed to preserve the integrity of ongoing criminal investigations. State law permits police to withhold records collected during a criminal investigation if those records are to be used “in a prospective law-enforcement action” and if release of the records would jeopardize that action. The definition of a ‘prospective law-enforcement action’ is a frequent point of dispute when people seek police records. Although there is no prosecution envisioned as a result of the Sandy Hook shootings, Sedensky argues that the ongoing investigation itself amounts to a ‘prospective law enforcement action,’ while the Freedom of Information Commission and court rulings typically have applied a narrower definition.”
But if no prosecution is envisioned, then how are police left “at the mercy” of criminals?
More importantly, why is the state attorney putting this much effort and expense to bar the public from hearing the audio of the 911 calls? So far we have, first, a secret legislative push to ban 911 calls—which failed—and now a court fight against releasing the audio.
Why? What is going on?